Montreal Canadiens: Depth Down the Middle

Before most of us can remember, the Canadiens had real depth down the middle. Names like Beliveau, Richard and Morenz, to name just a few. For those over 30 years of age, we can look back to Muller, Damphousse and Koivu as legitimate top end centers. The likes of Galchenyuk, McCarron and Leblanc brought false hope in the years that followed. But time after time we we’re hit with the reality that is Tomas Plekanec. Most Canadien fans, this one included, believe all that is about to change.

Ryan Poehling was first to arrive on the scene. The Minnesota native is having a real strong tournament at the WJHC. Selected 25th overall at the 2017 NHL entry draft, he probably won’t be challenging for any scoring titles. What he is capable of is effectively finding his wingers on the ice, play a responsible game at both ends of the rink, use his frame to play physical in puck retrieval and always praised by coaches and teammates alike for being a natural born leader… In other words, the Habs may have a Mike Fisher type player on their hands.

(Photo: Minas Panagiotakis, Getty Images)

On June 15th 2018, Marc Bergevin took all kinds of criticism for a deal involving Galchenyuk and one Max Domi. Didn’t help silence the critics when word got out that Domi would be utilized at C. An experiment that failed miserably only a year earlier when Drouin was forced into that role. The son of legendary Maple Leaf enforcer seemed to thrive under the bright lights. Domi’s numbers have come back down to earth a little over the last month but his work ethic, ability to play center and the injection of new found attitude he’s brought is undeniable.

After a disastrous season the Habs we’re awarded the 3rd overall pick at the 2018 draft. Names like Zadina and Tkachuk we’re preferred by most. After all, Kotkaniemi wasn’t an easy name to pronounce and the youngster was nowhere near the top of his draft class at the mid season point. An explosive second half propelled him upwards and Habs management took notice and selected the lengthy Finn. Compared to Anze Kopitar by some, his numbers halfway through year one don’t resemble the ones of a superstar center, but for those of us who tune in and watch the games, the potential is clearly on display and it would appear Timmins and Co. got this one right.

Finally, on September 10th 2018, days before training camps opened across the NHL and after a summer filled with speculations. Captain Max Pacioretty was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights. Bergevin received three assets for the 30-goal winger, none more prominent than 19 year old center Nick Suzuki. The 13th overall selection in 2017, Suzuki is a crafty player in the offensive zone with great playmaking abilities and a big league release. But it’s his all around game that usually gets the most attention.

The Canadiens have added skill and depth down the middle over the last 12 months. It may be too early to call it a rags to riches story yet but the best is definitely to come. Maybe now Bergevin can repeat his accomplishments when it comes to the left side of the defense…

 

Happy New Year Hab Fans!

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